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Checks to identify the correct patient

People in New York may have heard of major medical errors, such as giving someone the wrong dosage. However, a common but sometimes less visible error is mixing up patients. This can mean that information about one patient might be documented in the records of another patient, or there might be a mixup when submitting samples.

One way to reduce the likelihood of mistakes is to have multiple layers of checks. Many procedures in the medical field include these checks, and this can be used to make sure patients are correctly identified as well.

For example, the Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies health care facilities, has mandated that a minimum of two patient identifiers should be used. The U.S. Air Force Medical Service reported that using one method, a Common Access card, to identify patients resulted in mistakes and is encouraging its patients to say something to providers if their names and dates of birth go unchecked.

What appear to be small errors, such as mixing up a patient's name, can have catastrophic results. A patient could receive the wrong treatment or might get incorrect test results back. This could delay or prevent a person's treatment, and the person could become ill, or the results might even be fatal. If a person believes that medical malpractice has occurred following surgical or other medical errors, consulting an attorney might be the next step. In a successful medical malpractice lawsuit, it is necessary to establish that harm was done to the patient and that it occurred because of negligence. This means that the legal field recognizes that while there may sometimes be adverse outcomes, such as a delay in making a difficult diagnosis, this does not always indicate medical malpractice. A jury will look at whether a patient received a reasonable standard of care.

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